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Poster - Boucher - Are postgraduates ready for research?


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Presented at LILAC 2009

Published in: Education
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Poster - Boucher - Are postgraduates ready for research?

  1. 1. ARE POSTGRADUATES READY FOR RESEARCH? Students’ Ability to Find Information Postgraduate students will already have considerable experience in finding information. However, to do a literature review they will need to be able to search bibliographic databases effectively. Do they have the skills to use Boolean operators? Asked to rate their skills in finding high quality information on narrow topics, all but one gave a self-rating between 4 and 10 on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 10 (excellent). Tested in their ability to use Boolean Operators there was a often a mismatch between perceived and actual ability. Clare Boucher, Katrina Dalziel, Michele Davies, Susan Glen – Library & Information Services. Jed Chandler – Postgraduate Training Officer, Postgraduate Faculty. SWANSEA UNIVERSITY, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP Method 1. The online Research Readiness Self- Assessment (RRSA) tool (created by staff at Central Michigan University) was chosen because: 1. it measures both the self-perceived and actual level of skill; 2. It can provide individualised feedback & recommendations for training. 2. In Oct. 2008, new entry research postgraduates (PhD level) were invited to take the RRSA. 67 (50%) out of a possible 134 took part. 3. Results were analysed to compare students’ self- perceptions with their actual skill levels. 4. After 4 months, students were asked what training they had attended and how useful RRSA had been in making an assessment of their IL training needs. 5. Records of attendance at IL training sessions for the RRSA group and the non-RRSA group were compared. Conclusion From these results, it is shown that • students’ self-perception of their Information Literacy skills is not always a reliable basis upon which to determine training needs in this area; • the RRSA tool is predominantly found to be useful for students in assessing their level of skills and training needs for Information Literacy; and, • using RRSA can help to raise awareness of, and attendance at, Information Literacy training sessions for research postgraduates. The results also support the Research Information Network (RIN) recommendations for more systematic approaches to identifying the information related skills and competencies of researchers. Swansea University intend to use RRSA again and to further refine and develop it in the light of results. Students’ Ability to Evaluate Information Students were asked to evaluate information from both websites and articles. Once again, there was a tendency to either overestimate or underestimate their skills Students’ Feedback Survey Monkey was used to conduct a brief evaluation of students experience of RRSA. The response rate was 38%. The majority found RRSA had been useful and went on to attend a greater number of IL training sessions. Attendance at Library Training Sessions Introduction Without any objective criteria, how well can students assess their Information Literacy skills and their need of further skills development? Would student assessments be more realistic if they used an objective tool designed to measure these skills and provide feedback to help identify training needs? Librarians at Swansea University, together with the Postgraduate Research Training Officer, sought to test the reliability of students’ self-perception of their own information literacy skills in relation to their actual skill level. Results Overall the average scores for the group were good. Research students should be able to “…identify and access appropriate bibliographical resources, archives, and other sources of relevant information” and demonstrate “… the ability to identify [their] own training needs”. (Research Councils UK , 2001) Students who rated their skills at the lower end (2nd Quartile) actually performed best in this test. None rated themselves in the bottom quartile. “… ignorance more frequently begets confidence than knowledge.” (Darwin, 1871, cited in Dunning & Kruger, 1999) A B C D E F Librarians and other training professionals should “… adopt more systematic and innovative approaches to identifying and assessing the needs of researchers to enhance their information-related skills and competencies.” (RIN, 2008) Did the RRSA tool help you to make a realistic assessment of your [IL] skills development needs ? Acknowledgements: RRSA was developed by staff at Central Michigan University. We are particularly grateful to Lana Ivanitskaya at CMU for her assistance & advice. For further information, please visit: or take one of our handouts. Further analysis, revealed specific areas of weakness and evidence of students over-estimating (and under-estimating) their skills. References Kruger, J., Dunning, D. (1999) ‘Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments’, Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 77(6), pp. 1121-1134. Research Councils UK (2001) Joint Statement of the UK Research Councils' Training Requirements for Research Students. Available at: (Accessed: 28 Feb. 2009) Research Information Network (2008) Mind the skills gap: information-handling training for researchers. London: Research Information Network. (Accessed: 10 November 2008). Range of Marks A Browsing the Internet B Evaluating Information C Obtaining Information D Perceived Research Skills E Research and Library Experience F Understanding of Plagiarism Range of Marks Lowest score Average score Students who took RRSA and replied to the survey also indicated their intentions to attend further sessions.